Class: Kitchen Skills I – Art of Garde Manger

by Cindy

Over the last year, food has become one of my greatest passions. Not only do I enjoy the company it comes with, I enjoy trying new dishes and new flavors. Since starting the blog, I’ve been dining out quite a bit. I had always wanted to take formal cooking classes but my work schedule was so erratic. With it being relatively consistent (finally!) for the last few months, I enrolled myself to NAIT’s first of five culinary skills courses. The courses are meant to be taken in order, prerequisites for the next, and are offered in semester format, much like any other program. Offered at night, it’s a great way to step into the culinary arts! Or if you’re like me, just a great way to start learning how to cook. Each course is over three night classes (Tuesdays and a Thursday), 4-hour time slots for a total of 12-hour per course. The fee is $250, everything is supplied you just need to bring a pencil and tupperware to bring home your food, and trust me, there was a lot of food!

Text Booklet

Kitchen Skills I is on the “art of garde manger“, French for “keeper of food”, the chef responsible for all things cold. This can include appetizers, desserts, pates, cold sauces, salads, dressing and sandwiches. There were two classes running simultaneously, split between two chefs: Chef Jason St. Laurent and Chef Erin Howe. Both graduated from NAIT’s culinary arts program and obtained their Red Seal. Chef St. Laurent was an executive chef in a restaurant in Red Deer before coming back to teach full-time in NAIT’s kitchens. Chef Howe has worked for multiple restaurants (Cafe de Ville, one of my favorites!) and even has a catering business, Funky Fork. Each class was around 12 people and we would switch kitchens half way through to learn from the other chef.

Mayonnaise From Scratch

Capers for Caesar Dressing

First day was about knife skills and salad dressings. For our salad dressings, we made mayonnaise from scratch which we would later turn into Caesar salad dressing for our next class. It’s so simple, it’s mind boggling how people just don’t make it at home. We also made an oriental vinaigrette and an orange and tomato vinaigrette to take home for salads.

Practicing Cuts

On the knife skills side, we learned the basic skills of cutting vegetables. From a batonnet to a julienne to a fine julienne to a brunoise, oh my! Large, medium, small dices of carrots, celery, and onion littered my cutting board. After two hours of chopping, you really get the hang of it! We ever tried our hand at tournée cutting a potato, an oblong shape with seven faces.

Cajun Chicken Breast

Muffuletta Sandwich

Second night was all about assembling sandwiches and wraps together. We made a Cajun spiced chicken Caesar salad wrap, using the Caesar dressing we made from last class. We also chopped up a bunch of olives, pimentos, and capers into a tapenade to make a muffuletta sandwich.

Class

Demonstrating Pinwheel Sandwiches

Open Faced Ham and Cheese Sandwich

On the second side of the kitchen, we learned how easy it was to make spreads. Assembling tea sandwiches was the main demonstration for the night: pin wheel and checkerboard style. At the end of the night, we even had time to do an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich.

Snow Goat Mushroom Tarts

Close Up of Snow Goat Mushroom Tart

The last night was the most fun! Aside from the fire evacuation, the most exciting (and yummiest) part was the snow goat cheese mushroom tarts! Absolutely delicious. The tart shells we used were store-bought, but the mushrooms were sautéed in butter, mixed in with goat cheese and egg, and topped over caramelized onions. Just need to make tart shells from scratch, and I’ll be able to say I made the entire thing!

Bruschetta

Greek Salad in a Cucumber Cup

Also made some bruschetta (mmm!) and a Greek salad, placed into a fancy cucumber cup. Most definitely making these dishes at home. Too easy and too yummy!

Demonstrating Building Canapes

Curried Cream Cheese with Pickled Ginger Canape

Smoked Salmon Canape

Poached Prawn with Chili Cream Cheese Canape

Last lesson of the day was on canapes and how to present them. We made a chili cream cheese and curry cream cheese spread to go on our base and garnished with pickled ginger, smoked salmon, or poached shrimp. I can make simple ingredients look pretty now!

I had a blast doing the course! I met a bunch of people, some were already home cooks and just wanted to improve on their skills; others clueless like me. We all gained a lot of knowledge (and a lot of food! Tip: Bring at least 4 pieces of tupperware!). I unfortunately couldn’t take the next skills course right away but the whole set is offered again for the winter semester. I’ll most definitely continue with the program and get a certificate in the kitchen skill courses! Next up: Kitchen Skill II – Flavor Recognition, Stocks, and Soups.

To enroll: NAIT – Culinary Skills Courses

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1 comment

Knifewear Edmonton | let's om nom November 24, 2012 - 9:14 AM

[…] my first culinary skills course, I realized what poor knife skills I had. I shouldn’t say poor, I could do the job… […]

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